If you build it…they will (not) come…

When I flap my mouth like this, it can often get a negative response.  I think my writer’s voice is arrogant and possibly a bit smug.  I read back my old blog posts and have to admit to wincing and thinking: “Who IS this idiot!  What an opinionated t**t”.  I’m mentioning this because this post may well go down the arrogant / smug / t**t route, so you’re forewarned now and I apologise in advance.

 If you’re still here…I’ve noticed over and over again how many costly IT projects and initiatives go the way of Milli Vanilli and fruitcake cheese.  Millions of pounds given to educational establishments and businesses to develop admittedly beautiful, swanky and cutting edge websites, social networking sites, Virtual Learning Environments, digital repositories, galleries and showcases…..all of which end up being no more than glorious follies.  Virtual tumbleweeds career along deserted forums, message boards, film repositories and glossaries.  To quote Richard Herring: why is this Stew?
Well, I have a theory, and because I am arrogant, it’s something I bang on about whenever I’m at a conference or seminar. And I may well be completely and utterly off course with this.  But…if you build it, they will not come.  Really!
Want to get your learners to network socially?  Built them a standalone social networking site linked to your school or college?  Wondering why after a flurry of curiosity on days 1-3, nobody has logged in for 4 months?  I reckon it’s because they’re all on Facebook.
Want to build a swanky site that wil host all of your learners’ videos?  Developed something that cost a fortune for designers to put together and another fortune to host?  Wondering why none of your learners have uploaded anything? I reckon it’s because they’re all on YouTube (or, increasingly, Vimeo).
Many people say that it HAS to be this way because of permissions, eSafety, school and college firewalls and the like.  Ok….I get that to a point…but by blocking all of this stuff we’re shielding our learners from reality (something for another post, perhaps?) so they are ill-prepared for the ups and downs of digital life and identity outside the school walls.  Besides, loads of learners have phones that keep them permanently hooked up to YouTube and Facebook in school or college anyway!
So.  Why do we think that it’s up to our learners to come to us?  Why can’t we screw up our pride, allay some of the concerns associated with young people using social netowrking sites and the like  (and save millions of pounds and thousands of man hours) by going to where THEY are already and moulding their educational and digital experiences into a shape they recognise and, vitally, feel comfortable using?
Ok.  Read all of that back.  I sound like an uninformed twonk.  No surprise there…

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